Nella’s worldview widens amid a tangle of emotions in this coming-of-age exploration of time and change.
Like her blue-collar Little Italy neighborhood, the white girl’s life is changing. And the changes feel as difficult to navigate as the dilapidated stroller she often maneuvers through the neighborhood with one of her four younger brothers, affectionately referred to as “brutish barbarians,” aboard. Her Catholic school is closing, and the largely black public school scares her. She uncovers a secret about her father’s past that shakes her view of him. Her science-fiction–loving new best friend, Clem, wants to celebrate the leap second—when a second is added to the clock, and time expands. She is no longer close to her first friend, Angela, whose older brother, Anthony, Nella idolizes. When Anthony mistakenly shoots and kills a black man in a misguided attempt to protect a family, racism tears at the community. One second changes everything, just as her father’s youthful crime changed his life. Time is hard to measure; it stumbles, expands, and even stands still. The past can bump right into the present. Nella learns the importance of kindness and empathy, of not judging people without knowing them—and that every second matters.
With an engaging protagonist, a fast-moving story, important themes subtly conveyed, and touches of humor, this is a richly layered story that will have wide appeal. (Fiction. 10-13)